Cory Stillman to announce retirement Thursday
Cory Stillman is hanging up his skates after a 17-year NHL career in which he accomplished what few Peterborough kids ever have.
Stillman, 37, will officially announce his retirement at a press conference Thursday in Florida where the Panthers will introduce him as a member of their player development staff. He will work under director of player development Brian Skrudland monitoring and working with Panthers prospects from the junior ranks to the minor pros.
"They asked when I was traded (from Florida to the Carolina Hurricanes at the NHL trade deadline) to let them know when I was done playing because they'd like to have me in the organization. It's a good opportunity," Stillman told The Examiner Wednesday night.
Stillman says he had offers to return to the NHL, including from Carolina, but he felt, for a variety of reasons, the timing was right to move onto the next stage of his life.
"I can walk away knowing I wasn't pushed out the door," Stillman said. "I could still play. When I got traded back to Carolina I was reunited with some guys and we had a good run at the end. In the end, I'm not old, but I'm getting a little older, I'll be 38 in December, and I had a career I'm very happy with. Now it's time to move on to be with my family."
Getting to make the decision on his own terms was important to Stillman who has battled injuries in recent years.
"I love playing the game and still love the game a lot, but one door is closing and another door is opening. This allows me to stay in the game and be a part of an NHL team and help kids," he said. "I can walk away with no regrets in this game."
Stillman admits it's been tougher in recent years dealing with injuries. He's had surgery on both shoulders, both knees and suffered a concussion last season, but he says he's fortunate to walk away in good shape and able to play with his kids.
"As you get older you don't quite respond as you would when you're 20," he said.
His sons Riley, 13, and Chase, 8, have played minor hockey in Florida and Carolina, but he felt they could benefit from playing AAA in Canada. They will play in the Minor Petes system for the minor bantam and novice Petes.
"If my guys played baseball, football or basketball, maybe, we would have stayed down south, but for hockey this is the easiest transition to come home and be with family and play at a high level. It's just starting for them, but they have smiles on their faces every time they come to the rink," said Stillman, whose wife Mara is also from Peterborough. The couple also have a daughter Madison who is a competitive softball player.
Stillman says he's been invited by coaches of both his boys' teams, Fred Sweeting and Dave Ralph, to help at practice. He's been invited to help with skills clinics locally. Stillman says he wants to be involved with local hockey as much as he is able.
"I want to try to give back the knowledge I've built up over a long time and give it to them right away. If they can take one thing I have taught them, whether you're eight, 10, 12 or 14, hopefully, one day it can make a difference for them."
Among Stillman's accomplishments is being one of only six players in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cups on different teams. He assisted on the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cup winning goal in 2004 and helped lead Carolina to the title in 2006 following the 2005 lockout.
Only one Peterborough minor hockey graduate has played more NHL games than Stillman's 1,025. Bob Gainey played 1,160 for the Montreal Canadiens. Had Stillman not lost a season to the lockout and parts of others to injuries, he could have passed Gainey.
During his career, Stillman tallied 278 goals and 449 assists for 727 points. It's the second highest total by a Peterborough native behind Steve Larmer's 1,012.
Stillman also won the Emms Family Award as the Ontario Hockey League's rookie-of-the-year in 1990-91 after compiling 101 points with the Windsor Spitfires. He won an OHL championship with his hometown Petes in 1993.
The Calgary Flames made Stillman the sixth overall choice in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. He also played with the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Ottawa Senators and Panthers. His best season statistically was 2003-04 when he finished ninth in NHL scoring with 25 goals and 55 assists for 80 points.
While his career has featured many highlights, Stillman says it's easy to pick the biggest ones out.
"Winning the Cups are the two biggest things," he said "Going through it was like a blur. You have people tell you things which happened and while I played and lived it, I forgot a lot of it because of the excitement."